Hospice Volunteers's Archive

Hands on Izzy, volunteer

Friday, August 1st, 2008

What I don’t like about hospice work

Thursday, July 24th, 2008


Izzy, in a nursing home yesterday visiting a hospice patient,  always gets the girls

  July 24, 2008 – What I don’t like about hospice is when I show up at a house or a nursing home, and the patient is gone. Sometimes there are people standing around, a gathering that suggests death. Sometimes, as happened Friday it’s an empty bed and a nurse shaking her head,  telling me somebody I have connected with on the edge of life is gone, or has been rushed to the hospital. This bothers me more than sickness or death, and I can’t say I really know why. 
  Mary is not officially in hospice. We met her at a nursing home while visiting a hospice patient. I’m not sure I ever saw anybody connect with me or with Izzy so quickly. She grew up on a farm, from an old farm family, and especially loved and remembered her border collies. She was an Alzheimer’s patient, and was confused, repeating some words and phrases, but she was not confused about Izzy. But she has the broadest smile and the most beautiful and penetrating blue eyes.
   Mary glowed at the sight of Izzy, taking his head in her hands – and saying “what a wonderful dog,” and telling me how much she loved him, how much she wanted to give him a treat. Izzy drinks up this kind of attention, and returned it with interest and the two of them just lit up the room flirting with one another, loving each other, hugging.
 Izzy can really turn it on when somebody loves him. She turned to me and clasped my hand, and she was so gracious and generous, and said. “why, how can I thank you for coming to see me and bringing this wonderful dog and reminding me of my border collie, so long ago?” And I was overwhelmed a bit by that, and then she looked at me a bit vacantly, and then turned to Izzy and stroked his head.
  And I told her I would be back, and I meant it, and today I stopped to get some flowers and brought them to her room at the nursing home, and when I came in the room I knew instantly that something was wrong, as almost all of Mary’s things were gone, and I put the flowers down, and Izzy looked all around the room and then we walked quickly out into the hallway and found a nurse, and asked where Mary was, and I know that look by now, and she shrugged and said she had just been taken to the hospital, and she didn’t know when she would be back or if she would be back.
  So Izzy and I visited our hospice patient, who was also glad to see him, and then we drove to Glens Falls Hospital, where we were told that Mary was not able to receive visitors, and perhaps we could come back tomorrow. I hope we get to see her.
   Mary got to me, and I connected with the warm and love in her spirit, and so did Izzy, for sure.
  I took photos of Mary and she and her daughter both gave me permission to use them (one partial photo is above) and I have debating all week whether or not to use them, but her daughter is comfortable with it and I actually think it’s important to bring some fuller identities to the people we meet when possible. It makes them more real.
  But I will wait to see.
  It’s odd, really, because I have seen illness, some suffering and death in hospice work, and I am okay with it. But I don’t like showing up to see people we know and finding their rooms and beds empty. Volunteers are not, and shouldn’t be, the first people called when somebody is sick or dying. People have other things to worry about. But I’ll never get used to it.
  I may post a photo of Mary over the weekend, but I want to see how she is first, and whether or not we can visit her.

Hospice Volunteers Meeting, Methodist Church, Cambridge, N.Y.

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Hospice Meeting

Izzy gets some counseling

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Izzy and the Boss
Izzy and the boss, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Keith Mann,
welcoming him today.
The two are great buddies.

April 30, 2008 – So when Keith (“Sarge”) Mann of Hospice read the earlier post about Izzy he strongly suggested we stop by for some volunteer support counseling, and we went to the County Health Building in Fort Edward and Keith (Izzy is crazy about Keith) had arranged for Izzy’s many friends among the county caregivers to have biscuits in their desks, and Izzy went from desk to desk getting treats, hugs, and even a foot and back massage from Chris (below). This dog has friends.
He was surrounded by loving people, who seemed to lift him up.
It was actually a bit if shock to see how this visit transformed Izzy, who had seemed alarmingly sluggish and tired to me.
When he left, as you can see below, he was his old self and we chased sheep and went with Rose on a four-wheeler ride into the woods. We’re going back to work this afternoon.
I suppose health caregivers by nature are loving people, to be in this line of work – it isn’t for the money – and you could sure feel it today. Izzy is his old self, and he and I appreciate it. I wonder I could get an Izzy disguise?

Chris dispensing Izzy Fuel
Chris dispending Izzy fuel. His batteries are re-charged.

New volunteer class – Be fulfilled

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

April 16, 2008 – Izzy, Lenore and I went to talk to the new class of Washington County Hospice volunteers, undergoing their training under the watchful eye of Hospice Honcho Keith Mann (I call him “Sarge,” which he hates: “you will do your paperwork on time!”).
Hospice is not easy to join. Lots of screening, intense training. You need all of the training, I told the new class. We talked about all the ways people can contribute – stories, photos, music, listening.
Hospice, I find, is often misunderstood. It is not a place to die, a cancer treatment facility, or a hospital. It is a network of institutions, groups and people gathered to help ease the mistreatment of the dying – their isolation and exhaustion, and most importantly, to help individual people die well, and with the dignity and comfort and choice to which they are entitled. Hospice groups vary from place to place, but they often consist of doctors, nurses, social workers, health aides and volunteers who help people driven to the very edge of life decide how they want to leave us. We help the patients and their families in a variety of ways. Sign up. There is a Hospice in your community. This work is not for everyone, but if it is for you, it can be very meaningful.
Be fulfilled. Help ease the process of dying, which in our culture is often shunned by much of the world. Help someone die well.

Team Hospice

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Team Hospice. Lenore and Izzy celebrate Lenore’s graduation from training, and her
appointment as a full-fledged Hospice dog. Lenore seems reflective.

February 25, 2008 – Clear, cold. Storm coming tomorrow, rain, sleet, then 6 to 10 inches. If I could afford it, I’d fly Annie to Florida. She’s earned it.
I’ve signed up with Larry White, a well known dance photographer originally from New York City, to give me some pointers with the new camera. Got to keep learning. Didn’t learn much when I was actually in school, but it seems never to be too late. Going to keep working at it. It is not easy to take a good picture, and I get lucky once in awhile, but want to up the percentage.


So great news. Got twice the Hospice canine punch.
Lenore was inducted into Hospice work at the Washington County Hospice and Palliative Care Program HQ in Ft. Edward this afternoon  by Keith Mann, good friend, and Hospice honcho and Training Co-Ordinator. She got a graduation certificate, which she nearly ate, and a plastic ID, which I will not let her eat.
Izzy seemed vaguely discomfited by her lack of decorum, but I am very excited. She trained hard, flew through her temperament test, and did very well at four practice visits. She is genial, calm, still a bit boisterous, natural for her age, which is seven months.
She’s going to hit a nursing home tomorrow, weather permitting. She is a very different kind of dog than Izzy, which is fine. She spreads light and cheer wherever she goes, where Izzy zeroes in for the one-on-one bonding. Both are valuable and will greatly broaden the kind of Hospice work the program can do with dogs. Great for me, too, as Lenore will challenge me to think carefully about how to use these two wonderful animals.
Izzy has shown me the difference a dog can make, even in homes where people are dying. Lenore will show me something also, I suspect, and I can’t wait to see it and pass it along.
Below, Lenore gets her ID and certificate. We hit the road immediately, stopping briefly at a nursing home. The patients were eating, so the dogs snuggled with nurses and we will return tomorrow, storm permitting. These two can really work a room or a nursing home.

Izzy campaigns with county health workers; Lenore assists

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

February 17, 2008 – Raining, ice. – Friday, Izzy went to the Washington County Public Health facility in Ft. Edward to campaign for the “Shining Star” employee of the month award, for which he has been nominated for his weekly morale-building visits to the dedicated nurses of the county’s public health service, including Hospice. Lenore came along to help him campaign. Woe to his competitors. He took the place by storm cubicle-by-cubicle, and Lenore did pretty well herself, at one point, lying down in the hallway to take a nap.
Izzy was mobbed. There will be no living with this dog if he wins, or even if he doesn’t. He has friends – girlfriends, mostly in cubicles all over the building, and many keep biscuits and treats on hand and he remembers them, and makes sure he visits them all. He even sucked up to the bosses. One day, I will walk into a building and have a bunch of beautiful women yell “awww, how cute!” Not in this life. I had to pry him out of there. I am content driving Izzy. In fact, that should be the name of my next book, “Driving Izzy.” Lenore also made many friends and will join in the morale visits. I have to say, seeing these nurses in action is awe-inspiring. They work incredibly hard, do incredible good.

One of Izzy’s many admirers – they each get personal visits

Izzy’s nomination